Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chester "Chet" Brewer

Satchel Paige wasn't the only pitching star in the Negro League. Chet Brewer (who attended Western High in Des Moines) was to face off against the legendary Dizzy Dean on October 13, 1934. Brewer was pitching for the Kansas City Monarchs, the team that was 5-time champion of the National Negro League. Dean was playing for an all-star team in this exhibition game. Would you like to know who won? Here's a headline for you: "Negro Nine Wins Ball Game, 9 - 0". Yes, the Monarchs shut out Dizzy Dean, who admittedly only pitched 3 innings. And they didn't even need Chet - he wound up on the bench because they were saving him for another game. Still pretty cool.

Sources: The Bystander, October 5, 1934 p. 1; October 19, 1934 p. 1
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Kansas State University College of Education
Suggested by Luann Rowat, East Side Library

Don't forget the Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience exhibit at the East Side Library.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Battle Monkeys, Unwinged

In keeping with the previous 'Wizard of Oz' postings I do have a monkey generator to offer. I just could not find a flying monkey generator, although I understand these creatures provide a significant plot point in 'Wicked'. But there is the Food-Eating Battle Monkeys! generator to save us. In the epic Mary vs Rhoda conflict: Rhoda's Bone-Eating Circus Monkey beats Mary's Kebab-Eating Sumo Monkey. Are any of us surprised?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Billie not Billy

Billie Burke, the rather delicate actress who played Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, was christened Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke. Even as an adult she wasn't big enough to carry all those names. Not to mention Ethelbert. Just how badly did her parents want a boy? She was primarily a very successful stage actress who happened to marry the infamous Flo Ziegfeld. Flo had many extra-marital affairs, and even after they suffered huge losses in the Crash of 1929 he still spent extravagantly. He died in 1932 leaving Billie buried in debt. One wonders if at that point she regretted her advice to wives of philandering husbands: "Act as if you don't know what's going on. . . Your gambit is to be so good to come home to." OK. After a move to California to earn money to cover the debts, Burke acted in more than sixty feature films between 1933 and 1960. And yet I only remember her as Glinda. Just as well she thought Glinda was her best role.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Hey, did you know the Broadway musical Wicked is coming to Des Moines? Because I haven't seen any advertising. Our personal images of the Wizard of Oz are shaped by the 1939 musical starring Judy in glorious Technicolor. Or should I say glowing? Technicolor was bright. The original book was illustrated by one W.W. Denslow and his vision was a bit different. But the pictures did match the book's character descriptions. The lovely creature to your right is Glinda, who looks a little like Winston Churchill in a dress. Hard to imagine her trilling "are you a good witch or a bad witch"? Maybe that line wasn't in the book. Check out the one and only original.
The Wizard of Oz (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the orginal title ) as illustrated by W. W. Denslow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Library Cards

And not the funny kind. Like, you're such a card! Get it? Just me? Anyway, this is National get a Library Card month and we would like to set you up. Most Iowa residents are eligible for cards, just bring in picture ID and something with your current address. Or, if your picture ID has your current address, that's all you need! Could it be any easier? Of course we do have you fill out an application, but in return you get access to the collections of 6, count 'em, 6 excellent libraries. Plus dandy online sources, including down-loadable books. Who could resist? Happy Library Card Month!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Negro Baseball League

HELLO, EAST SIDE! Beginning today straight from Cooperstown, New York, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the National Endowment for the Humanities brings you a traveling display of Negro League Baseball memorabilia. Kick off with a visit from Larry Tye, author of Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend. Reception at 5:30 PM, program at 6:30 PM. Then stay to enjoy Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience Exhibit. This lively display includes letters, schedules, photographs, posters, and other bits. Did I mention it's at the East Side Library? 2559 Hubbell Avenue. Lots of room to park. You'll like it!

List of Resources for African-American History in Iowa
Just FYI - some of these items are part of out local history collection and cannot be checked out. If you stop in at the Central Library you can read them in the building.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Star Trek Alien Name Generator

Sure, everyone wants to be a Klingon. Tough guys. With this name generator you can choose to be a Klingon or a Romulan. So if you prefer not to be a gak-eater, you have a choice. My Romulan name is Argelian Latta, which is a little on the delicate side if you ask me. I know, I could have gone for the Klingon. At least my name sounds like a really exotic cup of coffee. Go ahead, give it a shot. Maybe you'll get an even cooler beverage!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Good Old Books SF Hall of Fame Volume 2A

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume 2A , as chosen by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1973. Snappy title, isn't it? And the works are actually older, because SFWA (excellent acronym) wanted to acknowledge great novellas written before 1965, when the Nebula Awards were first conferred. They were not fooling around. Who Goes There is the basis for the movie The Thing and every claustrophobic tale that asks the question 'Which one of us is the alien?' and answers the question with a round of very tense blood tests. Vintage Season is one of the most poignant stories you'll ever read. And as you know, SF and poignant are not exactly best buds. In Baby is Three we meet a melded group of human beings each of whom is not whole person on their own. Amazing, original stuff. I should definitely re-read it. But I'll give you a shot first.

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume 2A

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

That Good Old SF Gal, Thuvia

Thuvia, Maid of Mars! Edgar Rice Burroughs is best remembered for his Tarzan books, but boy howdy, he wrote some wild Science Fiction in his time. Hey, it takes place on Mars, that makes it SF in my book. Despite prose like this: "Her cheek was close to his. Death, unseen and of unknown form, seemed close upon them, and because unseen and unknowable infinitely more terrifying. 'Courage, my princess', he whispered." Because while the previous may have appeared in a straight romance novel, would said novel feature green men with 4 arms? One-eyed blue plant men? I thought not. There are also some familiar-sounding terms in the book: Jed, a king; Jeddak, an emperor; Padwar, a lieutenant; Sith, a hornet-like monster; Banth, a Barsoomian lion. (Who can forget Jabba's jolly 'bantha pudu' joke?) Great men think alike. Just makes Thuvia all the more fun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Good Old Books Science Fiction - Olaf Stapledon

Never heard of him, right? And with a name like Olaf Stapledon you wouldn't get him confused with someone else. Yet his short novels Odd John and Sirius introduced thoughtful, complex examinations of two of science fiction's beloved characters: intellectual supermen, and dogs chockful of artificially-induced intelligence. The books delve into the emotional impact on these beings who find they are essentially one-of-a-kind, and how they cope with the isolation. Not exactly people running around in spaceships. But very engaging books, well worth the read. They are published in one volume - short enough you can read one and have time to think about it before you read the other. Convenient!

Odd John & Sirius; two science-fiction novels

Monday, September 14, 2009

Good Old Books Week, Science Fiction Style

Arthur Conan Doyle, renowned author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, also wrote a little science fiction tale he called 'The Lost World '. He invented Dinosaurs in the Contemporary World stories! Isolated South American plateaus! Larger-than-life scientists! Doomed attempts to take prehistoric creatures back to civilization! Sound familiar? Of course it does, but it's still fun to read the original. A sample of the writing, on the first sight of a pterodactyl: "For an instant the monster wings blotted out the stars, and then it vanished over the brow of the cliff above us. We all sat around in amazed silence around the fire, like the heroes of Virgil when the Harpies come upon them." If only I knew how the heroes of Virgil looked when they sat around the fire.

The Lost World

Friday, September 11, 2009

Battle Cry!

Want something more original than 'By Grabthar's Hammer' to yell when you go into battle? At the grocery store? You know I wouldn't bring this little problem up unless I had a solution. What is Your Battle Cry? stands ready to help. Put in a little info, doesn't have to be true, and Conan's your uncle. Here are a few beauties to whet your appetite:
"I'm going to bruise you with such disregard for common sense, I will be high on life for years to come!!"

Sprinting along the hotel lobby, swinging a vorpal blade, cometh Name Withheld! And she gives a vengeful cry: "I'm going to clobber you in such an unsafe manner, your timbers will shiver!"

"I'm going to spank you until armored tanks pull us apart!!"

Watch the delightful movie GalaxyQuest for more on Grapthar's Hammer. Or just because it's hilarious.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Still Woodstock

Here are CD's by some of the lesser-known acts that played Woodstock. I personally had never heard of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and yet we offer their actual music recordings. I have so much to learn.

Country Joe and the Fish
I-feel-like-I'm fixin'-to-die rag

Ten Years After
Cricklewood green

Paul Butterfield Blues Band
An anthology: the Elektra years

Canned Heat
Canned Heat: 40 years of boogie

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Woodstock Anniversary

Ah, Woodstock. Such a legend that it seems unreal. My husband came thisclose to attending (joining? celebrating? experiencing?) Woodstock and somehow wound up in Canada instead. But I have a friend who was there and kindly agreed to share a first-hand experience of the country's most famous music festival:
"We arrived Friday night, seven of us riding in a Volkswagen Bug from New York City. We couldn’t reach the concert so left our car along the side of a dirt road and walked along with hundreds of others. From far away we could hear Joan Baez’s voice ringing out through the night. It was raining and we saw this shed so we camped there. The next morning we walked on to the concert and found a place on the hillside to listen to the music. We were a long way from the stage but it didn’t seem to matter. Late that afternoon my friends took off except for this guy named Tom, who had ridden with us. All through the night the music played. I remember trying to stay awake to hear the Jefferson Airplane. I think they were playing about the time the sun came up. My friends never came back, so later Tom and I wandered around just seeing all the people. We ran across some friends of Tom’s from New York Public Library and they fed us breakfast. Later that afternoon we decided to walk out to the road and see if we could hitch back to the city. We walked through this little town where all the people were making sandwiches in their front yards and giving them out to kids leaving the concert."
Oh, to be young.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Tuesday, September 15 2009, 6:30 PM at the Central Library, Dr. Mardy Grothe discusses his lifelong passion for quotations. Especially the ones that start with the word 'if'. I tend to forget that 'if' phrases can be quotes from specific people. Lines like "If you build it they will come" are of very particular origin. And if you are an Iowan and don't know the origin of that one, you've been living in a barn, as in "Shut that door! Were you raised in a barn?". My favorite quotation that starts with 'if' goes like this.

If I were King of the foreeeest
Not queen, not duke, not prince.
My regal robes of the foreeeest,
Would be satin, not cotton, not chintz.
I'd command each thing, be it fish or fowl
With a woof and a woof and a royal growl --- woof."

The Wizard of Oz DVD

Monday, September 7, 2009

Still Closed Today

The Des Moines Public Library, all six buildings, are closed today in honor of Labor Day. The first Labor Day Parade took place in New York City in September 1882. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, which is very reliable.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Birds in Iowa - Spinning Wheel Got to go Round

Here's something you don't see every day. When I first laid eyes on this I could not make heads or tails of it. It's like someone put bird parts together at random then tried to roll the whole thing down a hill. What you are looking at is a pelican taking a sand bath. Yes, there's an entire pelican in there. The White Pelican is the largest bird you will see in Iowa, with a wingspread of 9 to 10 feet. They're huge. This photo was taken on the Des Moines River near Yellowbanks Park. You just never know what you'll see on Iowa rivers!

Photo courtesy Gerry Rowland

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Birds in Iowa Eating

What's all this then? Birdie tug-of-war? It's a young cardinal being fed by an adult male, presumable Dad. Once the chicks are big enough to leave the nest, (as big as the adults apparently) their mother starts a new batch of eggs and stops feeding them. So these fledglings follow the male around and beg for food. As you can see, the males oblige. Looks like they stick the seed so far down the fledgling's gullet, said fledgling doesn't even have to do it's own swallowing. That's the life.
UPDATE: Turns out that isn't a juvenile cardinal, it's a juvenile cowbird! Cowbirds lay their eggs in other birds' nests and let these unwitting foster parents feed them. Sneaky.
Courtesy Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Source Iowa Bird Watching
Photo courtesy Gerry Rowland

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Birds in Iowa - I meant to do that

Nope, the picture isn't askew. This is just how the white-breasted nuthatch likes to hang. That's why they are universally called 'upside-down birds'. (Get it?) They eat insects, seeds and nuts. Nuthatches wedge seeds in trees and whack the seeds with their beaks until the seeds crack open. Then they eat the tender delicious seed guts. Yet another fascinating fact: after finishing their nests, nuthatches crush bugs and smear the juice all over the entrance to the nest. The theory is that this makes the nest unattractive to predators. Works for me.
Source: Iowa Bird Watching
Photo courtesy Gerry Rowland